The November/December 2013 issue of Orion contains a portfolio of evocative images from San Francisco-based artist Tyler Bewley. Below, Bewley answers a few questions about his work, which illustrates “the conversation, and inherent tensions, between humans and nature.”
Your images are filled with color and movement, while also suggesting ideas about the world. Tell us about the creative process behind a typical piece—where do you begin? With a shape, or a color, or an idea?
My process usually begins with an image that percolates in my mind. Often, I am influenced by some information that I read about, have listened to, or something that I saw while traveling or in day-to-day experience. Some people seem to begin a piece without knowing how they want it to look as a finished product, and then they work the piece until it reaches completion; I am very much the opposite. I find that I have a clear sense of the image I am going to make before I begin, and that is always my starting point.
The landscapes depicted here—“Oceanfront Property,” especially—seem to suggest a time slightly removed from the present. How did you imagine time as you created these images? Are these echoes of the past, or reports from a possible future?
Whenever I learn or see something interesting that I wish to incorporate into my work, I begin to think of ways that the idea might effect our present, and also how it might shape the world to come. I have always had an active imagination, and I use my work to create windows into these possible futures.
The role of lines—straight lines, curved lines—in these images is striking. From a formal perspective, what differentiates the built environment from the natural world? Can you discern any fundamentally different architectures?
I have spent a fair amount of time observing the aesthetics of organic versus non-organic structures and forms. The patterns and lines that I choose play a very important role in creating the contrasting nature of man-made development and the natural world in my imagery. I tend to incorporate a more rigid and linear set of marks when depicting industry and architecture, while the nature that surrounds it tends to contain lines that have flow, curvature, and an unrestrained quality that speaks of movement and growth.
You’ve said that you’re interested in “the impact humanity has on our environment as we contort and shape it to our will.” There’s of course a hint of foreboding there, but is it possible to find hints of strange beauty in those contortions, too?
Absolutely. Living in San Francisco, I am constantly struck by the strange and beautiful marriage of urban life and nature. Every part of the city is a dramatic combination of extreme landscape—contained, manicured, and incorporated into residential and commercial space. I think this beautiful symmetry is what I love so much about the city, as well as where I draw much of my inspiration.
What inspires you? Are there particular places or forms in nature that capture your imagination?
I am fascinated with the ocean. I am an avid surfer and surfboard shaper, and I spend much of my time exploring the California coast. I am endlessly attracted to the raw power and ever-changing mood of the water and waves and I incorporate the lines and forms I see in the ocean’s movement into my work. When I am surfing and swimming in the water I have a real connection with the ocean and sea life; it allows me to center myself and reflect upon ideas that I have been forming for my creative pursuits.
Tyler Bewley’s images in the November/December 2013 issue of Orion are available in print and digital editions. Go ahead, subscribe!